It was a fierce tilt between #1 seed, Laval Rouge et Or and #2 McMaster Marauders in National Championship Game. One team would be crowded national champions for the first time in program history. In what was expected to be a defense battle between two of the top defensive teams in country, ending being a 70-58 win for Marauders. The Marauders become the fourth- straight first time national champion.
The Marauders and Rouge et Or had very solid first quarter, both teams traded baskets for most of the first quarter. After first quarter, Mac led by one point after one ,11-10.
The second quarter saw the Rouge et Or take control of the game on the back of Nan Copp award winner, Sarah Jane- Marois. She had 13 points including back to back threes which help give Laval,33-27 lead at half-time.
The Marauders came out at half-time, a completely different team as they scored five straight points including a three ball by fifth-year forward, Linnaea Harper. For three- minutes in the quarter, there was no scoring as both teams couldn’t get their shot to drop. It was a tie game at 44 heading into final quarter.
McMaster head coach Theresa Burns, on what she told her team at halftime.
“ Clearly we are not dropping shots right now but we are getting the looks, it going to happen, we need to pick it up on defensive end, that’s starts everything for us and we did that, game started to changed,”.
The fourth quarter saw an offensive explosion for McMaster led by Harper who had 11 points in fourth quarter. She had the play of the tournament when she hit a bank- shot with 2:33 left in the game and score was 60-54, it secured McMaster Marauders, it’s first national championship.
“When that went in , I was like wow and maybe there is some luck on our side after all and maybe things will go our way,” said Burns.
Laval Rouge et Or head coach, Guillaume Giroux on his team’s performance.
“We turned the ball over 18 times which is too much for a game of this caliber, they only turned the ball over nine times. We do not shot the ball well in second-half as they were on us a bit more of course meant we need to work hard for baskets,” he said .
McMaster’s fourth- year guard, Christina Buttenham returned home and joined McMaster this past season from playing three- years at University of Iowa.
“ I have never enjoy basketball more then I did this year and to make history with the seniors and everyone is a great feeling,” she said.
“ It was a little intimidate because Laval is a very good team as they could score all around, but once we stepped on the court and came out with our defense intensity, we got this and at halftime, we got this & we are good then in the fourth quarter we start hitting and that was the end of the night, “ said Fifth-year forward, Linnaea Harper who was named tournament MVP after 18 points and nine rebounds in championship game.
Harper averaged 15.3 points a game. She had 46 points and 21 rebounds along with 11 assists and six steals in three games.
“ I honestly did not expect to be get MVP because our team is so good, it could have been anybody so to be able to represent my team is a great feeling,”.
For fifth- year seniors like guard. Hilary Hanaka this victory meant so much.
“I’m actually pretty speechless, it is the storybook ending that I have been looking for since I started playing here. We have three other graduating players to finish on this note it is the cherry on top,”.
For the Hanaka’s family, the national championship is extra sweet because her sister, Julia is a third-year guard on the team.
“It is incredible, she has been my best friend forever and to look down the bench or on the court to see her by side me is incredible feeling,”.
McMaster head coach, Theresa Burns won her first national championship as a coach. She won a championship as a player,33 years ago with Toronto Varsity Blues.
“As a player you put so much love into it but I mean as a coach, I think there is a different level of understanding on how hard and special this is, as player, your teammates and coaches need you there and tell you where to go, as a coach to go through all this is unbelievable difficult,” she said.
For McMaster basketball, the legacy of Sunday’s national championship will not be forgotten.
“We made history that will live forever, we wrote a story that not many people can write,” said Hanaka.